Exploring the Collision Between the Missional and the Monastic.
Engaging the Mission of God…Right Where We Are.
These are a couple of the taglines that Missional Monks has used over the last 3 years to communicate what we’re addressing with this website, the podcast, and other equipping works. Lately, Wes and I have been focusing on a new – shorter (you’re welcome) – version.
Missional = Sent. Monks = Together.
A tagline that defines our name and describes our vision. Simple, eh?
Of course when we start digging in to what it means to live a Sent. Together. life, there are countless paths to explore. Sent. Together. should describe the posture of our churches and faith communities. It provides direction for our church planting, evangelism and discipleship endeavors.
But it also speaks about the way we view broader cultural issues. The human experience itself should be understood as a lived expression of a Sent. Together. process. We are not created to live in isolation. The problems you face are my problems precisely because you face them.
And so as Missional Monks we are committed to engaging community building projects, like the Bret Sent Me experiment. And we’re committed to things like neighborhood meals, playdates at the park, volunteering in our children’s schools, coaching, and training coaches to help people improve their missional imagination.
This afternoon we’re going to post the first of a series of articles that address a disturbing and incredibly unjust piece of legislation currently awaiting either signature or veto from the Florida Governor’s office. Speaking out against this sort of injustice is part of what it means to be a Missional Monk, because it is a recognition that our neighbor’s struggle is our struggle…and hearing our neighbor’s plight is itself a call to action.
Rather than write a long, boring bio of myself, which you would only briefly scan anyway, I thought I’d make it easy and give you a bullet-pointed list of things you need to know about Wes Magruder, the newest Missional Monk:
- Yes, I actually am a friend of Bret Wells. We got to know each other through our work with the Missional Wisdom Foundation, but even then, I kind of like him. I think he’s cool, especially with the facial hair. We like hanging out together, and even more, talking about how to be Sent. Together.
- I am a Wesleyan, but not sure how Methodist. Full disclosure: I am an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I became a UM because I felt called to the Church, and because I resonated with John Wesley’s emphasis on sanctification, joining together of faith and good works, and patterns of discipleship. When I see those things happening in the UMC, I celebrate. When I don’t, I get a little crabby.
- I don’t think most people who throw the word “missional” around knows what it means. I will say more about this later, but the missional conversation has been dangerously diluted by those who use the word loosely. And a lot of them are denominational folks looking for a new angle. If I can accomplish anything as a new Missional Monk, I’d like to help correct this situation.
- I hate church meetings. This comes from experience, believe me. I’ve been a pastor in churches in London, rural Texas, and suburban Dallas. Most church meetings, I have learned, peak after 11 minutes, and then quickly descend into ineffectiveness, gossip, and malaise. The proudest moment in my years as a pastor was shutting down a committee in England that couldn’t remember why it was meeting in the first place.
- I’m distrustful of institutions, but love community. This isn’t a paradox. It’s just a recognition of the reality that institutions quickly lose sight of the movements that birthed them, and end up doing things that undermine relationships and community. Exhibit A: most North American congregations.
- I believe that justice work is one of the great neglected themes of the North American church. Which means that most evangelical churches are lopsided, having determined (consciously or not) that social justice is not “spiritual” work. We need a recovery of the whole gospel, good news for every system, principality, power, and people group. Look for my contributions on this theme coming soon on this blog!
- I don’t own a gun, and never will. I might as well get this out here now: I’m a pacifist. No, I would not kill someone even if they were advancing on my family to do harm. I can explain some other time and in some other forum. All you need to know is that I believe the way of Jesus is nonviolent. Completely.
- I am suspicious of most Western missionary efforts, though I have been a missionary myself. I spent four years in Cameroon as the director of a new mission initiative through the denominational missional board. The experience was wonderful and life-giving (to myself and others), but even while I worked on the ground, I wondered if I was engaged in anything more than a colonizing project.
- Daraja is the Swahili word for “bridge,” and the name of the nonprofit organization that I recently started. Daraja is my current passion, a ministry to recently resettled refugees in the Dallas area. We train volunteers to coach refugees and their families, and help them make a successful transition to life in America. For more information, check out www.jesuswasarefugee.com.
- I am a girl dad. That’s what my three daughters call me. This means that I know way more than I ever wanted about drill teams, the Twilight series, hair and clothing, and emotional swings. But it also means that I am pampered, loved, and spoiled. Rachel is 19 and currently touring the world with Long Island University — Global. Chloe is a Planoette and going to be a senior next year, while Mallory starts high school next year as a Vikette. Oh, and my wife recently started her own business, a franchise of Kumon.
- In my next life, I want to be a rock musician. Seriously. My younger brother lived this life for awhile as the drummer of a band called Calla, and I was madly jealous the whole time. I’m currently digging the new album by The National, but I also like Bon Iver, Delta Spirit, Mumford and Sons, The Tallest Man on Earth … ok, this could go on awhile. Just know this — Bob Dylan is the man. And so is Bono.
- When Jesus says to follow him, I think he meant it. My whole life has been an attempt to figure out what this is supposed to look like. It’s taken me to some pretty crazy places, but it’s what life is supposed to be about.
- There are only two seasons of the church year: Baseball Season, and Ordinary Time. My major leisure activity is watching baseball. I am a lifelong fan of the Texas Rangers, and thus, have recurring nightmares of a ninth-inning fly ball in St. Louis. I’m SO glad we let Josh Hamilton go, but hope we never trade Jurickson Profar.
I am beyond excited to announce that Missional Monks once again refers to two people
…instead of one guy using the Royal “We.”
Dr. Wes Magruder is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, is the Director of Missional Community Development for the Missional Wisdom Foundation, and is the founder and director of Daraja, a ministry which works to build bridges with refugees in the Dallas area. Wes and his family served for several years as missionaries in Africa. Since returning, he has worked to cultivate missional renewal in a large congregation as the Associate Pastor, he has helped launch missional communities, teaches a course on “Reading Scripture with Missional Eyes” in The Academy, and has developed incredible relationships with refugees from multiple countries. So, since he isn’t busy, I asked him to partner with me as a Missional Monk.
In addition to working together on the blog, Wes and I are relaunching the Missional Monks Podcast (hooray!) – with the addition of monthly videocasts. We already have several fantastic interviews lined up where we’ll be talking about the collision of the missional and the monastic with people in a variety of different contexts.
Through our work together in the Missional Wisdom Foundation, Wes and I have had multiple opportunities to speak and teach together. The “Bret and Wes Show” as it is often called within the Foundation, seems to work pretty well. Specifically, we have had a number of opportunities to work with individual churches and groups that are interested in cultivating the missional imagination. Missional Monks is the perfect context to continue developing and improving that aspect of our ministry.
As this marks an exciting transition for Missional Monks, you can expect a number of changes coming to the website in the near future.
Please join me in welcoming Wes, because I’m contractually obligated to limit the nice things I say to him personally…and I think I’m already over my quota.
But for now it is time to unveil the first ever Missional Monks Videocast…complete with too many closeups of someone who needs to shave.
For this inaugural episode we visited the Seattle’s Best Coffee in Burleson to tell ’em…”Hi, I’m Bret.”
Check it out.
Yesterday we attended the elementary school’s 1st Grade Award Ceremony. During this hour long presentation, parents join the teachers and staff in celebrating our kids’ achievements. I spent most of my time vacillating between reflecting on the significance of what I witnessed and wishing the bench at that table was a little higher off the ground. When I wasn’t lamenting the pain in my back and knees, here’s what I noticed.
Celebration is important. It’s very easy to bemoan the fact that we seem to give awards away for everything these days. We hear complaints about “the entitlement generation” which seems to expect accolades and high pay the moment they grace a company with a job application – and we wonder if perhaps giving everyone a trophy just for showing up may have played a role in that.
HOWEVER, one of the greatest problems I encounter in coaching – whether in ministry contexts or business – is the frustration, discouragement and burnout that develops as a result of never pausing to celebrate progress and accomplishments. We rush from project to project and goal to goal with little or no awareness of what we’re actually doing.
Even knowing this to be true, about a year ago my own coach caught me saying, “I feel like I’ve just been spinning my wheels without any progress.” He immediately stopped the conversation and had me look back through the list of goals I’d set and completed throughout our coaching relationship (after several years, the list was pretty extensive).
We didn’t move forward to deal with the new set of obstacles until I acknowledged just how far I had come and how much progress I had made. When I stepped back and took a wider view, I found my perspective changing dramatically. At that point, I was much more equipped to deal with the new issues.
If we don’t celebrate; if we don’t appreciate the sense of accomplishment from a job well done or the wisdom gained from a glorious failure, the temptation to throw in the towel will become nearly unbearable. That’s just how it works.
So, hats off to the teachers who – despite constant pressure to prepare for the next ridiculous, government-mandated, standardized test – take time out to celebrate the individual progress and achievements of each student.
Adults…we need to take notice. What accomplishments can we celebrate today?
You might be thinking that sitting around patting yourself on the back is a great way to become complacent with your accomplishments. After all, don’t post-game interviews always include someone saying, “There’s no time to congratulate ourselves. This game is over and now it’s time to prepare for next week.”
There’s something to that. First of all, there’s the coolness factor…you know “act like you’ve been here before.” And it is well documented that cool guys don’t look at explosions.
“The more you ignore it, the cooler you look.”
Secondly, and a bit more legitimately, celebrating our accomplishments should not lead to a permanent encampment. Make no mistake, the cool guy jumps up and down and points at the flames as soon as he’s offscreen and the athlete leaves the stadium and goes to a party. But, the ones who want to keep winning or keep…er…blowing stuff up, have their party and then get back to work the next morning.
To return to my own example from coaching, after Anthony and I reflected on the goals I had achieved, we used that as a platform to begin figuring out how to address the current obstacles. He did not say, “Ah, don’t worry about these issues, you’ve already had some great success. Kick back and take it easy.”
Celebrating our successes helps remind us why we’re working on these goals in the first place, and this helps us maintain focus when difficulties arise.
I recently wrote about becoming more innovative by coaching others. I witnessed a similar principle at work today – one that brought me an incredible sense of pride along with a moment of insight.
As my first grade son stood in line waiting for his name to be called (sorry buddy, I passed on a “W” last name to you…you’ll be at the end of the line a lot), I watched as an uncommon thing took place. He was listening intently as each of his classmates were called up and honored for their achievements and then he would applaud enthusiastically each time.
Micah has always been considerably more reserved and less likely to show emotion than his two brothers, so this really stood out. I thought maybe he was just clapping loudly as a goof, but I soon realized that he was truly excited for each person.
Micah is one of those cool guys that doesn’t look at explosions. He puts a lot of effort into looking nonplussed when someone compliments him – it doesn’t really work, you can see it clearly…but he definitely tries. There wasn’t even an attempt as he climbed the stage yesterday. The sheer joy on his face was priceless.
His accomplishments were not in any way lessened by recognition of the accomplishments of others. In fact, I can’t help but be convinced that his practice of celebrating the successes of his peers significantly enhanced the experience of his own.
This too is an area where we adults need to take notice.
What accomplishments of your peers, friends, family or neighbors can we celebrate today?
Whether our goal is to raise well adjusted children, to lose 20 pounds, to start a new business or to reach a certain milestone in our career, there are going to be frustrations and set backs. We’re more likely to get there – and to appreciate the result when we do – if we acknowledge the significance of the small things we choose to do each day.
Perhaps celebrating those things in the lives of others will strengthen our ability to do the same, and make the process more palatable along the way.
It may not be EVERYTHING I needed to know about coaching…but I’m telling you, we can learn a lot from 1st graders if we’ll pay attention.
I have been involved with ministry and professional coaching for over five years now. I have a coach, I coach people and I serve as a coach trainer. I think it’s fair to say that I believe in its value. And yet, while the industry is growing rapidly, there are still tons of people who ask me “what sport?” when I tell them about my coaching work.
Coaching is the process of helping others solidify vision, establish goals, identify obstacles and move forward. I’ve coached people to write books, change careers, plant churches, start new businesses, develop organizational and time management strategies, lose weight, resolve systemic conflict issues in their organization, and relocate overseas as missionaries.
In case you’re wondering, no, I haven’t done all these things myself. So how is it that I’m qualified to help someone else? Because the role of the coach is not one of expert, mentor or advice giver. For the most part, coaching is a non-directive practice – which means that the client sets the agenda and owns the process. My role is to listen deeply, ask probing questions that deepen awareness, consider all the options, move conversations toward action plans, evaluate effectiveness…and repeat as needed.
This doesn’t mean that the answers to all questions are already present in the client’s mind. Often my role includes helping them figure out where they need to go to find information they are lacking…and then I help make sure they actually do that. This tool is particularly well suited for the missional-incarnational impulse which acknowledges that each of us are called to follow God in our specific context. And the truth of the matter is, while I can help you dig deeper, you are always going to be more qualified than me to discern what is going on in your context. You are the “boots on the ground.” You’re the one who is there every day. As a coach, my task is to help you be fully present and more effective.
Being coached has helped me tremendously. Having someone to help consider blindspots, ask me the tough questions that I’d rather avoid, consider alternative viewpoints…these are all very powerful. It’s even more powerful when you add to that a consistent reminder to move toward implementation, but also to periodically stop and evaluate what is and isn’t working – and celebrate accomplishments.
What I find interesting though, is how often coaching someone else provides break-throughs in my own work. By focusing all my attention on the other person, trying to get out of my own head and enter their story for a brief period, my perspective is stretched. After a coaching call I often find myself rapidly typing out realizations and insights from the conversation that have implications for my context. Angles I’d never considered, solutions that had avoided me.
I find my own creativity stoked, imagination unleashed and ideas generating at a pace beyond any hope of implementing them all.
As I think about this serendipitous by-product, I cannot help but think that every minister, every business leader, every entrepreneur, church planter, or community developer, every person who needs to be (or wants to be) more creative, innovative and effective should not only have a coach, but set some time aside to coach others.
Almost every single person I’ve worked with as a coach mentor has commented that the training has made them better listeners and more effective in all areas of life. Group projects at work, household plans with their spouse, helping friends through difficult times or big decisions…all of these are areas in which coaching principles can be incredibly beneficial.
So what about you? Could you benefit from greater creativity and innovation? Would being a better listener and conversationalist improve your work and home life? Would you like to be more equipped to help when the friend calls and says, “I don’t know what I’m going to do!” Then there’s the added benefit of an opportunity for extra income….
If you’d like more information about coaching fill out the form below, contact me on facebook or just leave a comment on this post.